Detroit Red Wings left wing Henrik Zetterberg (40), of Sweden, celebrates a teammate\'s goal against the Nashville Predators in the second period of a first-round NHL hockey playoff game in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday, April 20, 2008. Behind Zetterberg is Predators center Radek Bonk, of the Czech Republic. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Mark Humphrey
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Detroit Red Wings can take a couple days to rest up. The NHL's best team in the regular season won't miss the Western Conference semifinals this year.
Nicklas Lidstrom and Jiri Hudler each scored, and the Red Wings closed out their opening series by beating the Nashville Predators 3-0 in Game 6 on Sunday.
The Red Wings nixed any chance of a repeat of 2006 when they won the President's Trophy only to lose in the first round to Edmonton.
"I had no idea you had to carry the losses of a franchise around with you everywhere you went in the playoffs when you got to the playoffs," said coach Mike Babcock, who was in his first season in 2006.
Lidstrom bounced in a short-handed goal over goaltender Dan Ellis in the second period.
"I'm just trying to float one in there," Lidstrom said. "I took some off the shot just to see if I could land in front of him, just go for a bounce or just create something in front of him."
Ellis had been the biggest reason why the eighth-seeded Predators had a chance in this series. He came out to the edge of the crease to stop Lidstrom's long-distance lob.
"It just took a wicked bounce to the top corner. It's a situation you really can't do much about it. I thought I was close enough to stop it from going anywhere," Ellis said.
Hudler added a goal in the third with Brian Rafalski adding an empty-netter with 4.8 seconds. Goalie Chris Osgood stopped 20 shots for the shutout in his second straight playoff start as top-seeded Detroit became the first road team to win in this series.
With the victory, Detroit also passed Toronto for second on the list of playoff series won with 59.
"Anytime you get the opportunity to close out an opponent you want to do it as quick as you can," Detroit centre Kris Draper.
Nashville had hoped to use Ellis and an earsplitting crowd to force Game 7 in Detroit on Tuesday night. But the Predators missed their best scoring chance when David Legwand hit a post in the first period, and they failed to advance out of the first round for a fourth straight post-season - each time on their home ice.
The Predators had no pressure in a series few thought they'd have a chance to win. Their season featured a change in owners and the unloading of several top players under previous owner Craig Leipold. Nashville couldn't capitalize on a soldout crowd that tried to help by screaming and waving free towels at every opportunity.
Predators forward J.P. Dumont said he was proud of the team for proving critics wrong by making the playoffs.
"We had a lot of good battles with Detroit. We have to learn from that and look forward to next year," he said.
Ellis stopped 40 shots after setting a franchise playoff record with 52 saves in Friday night's 2-1 overtime loss in Detroit. That was the most through regulation in a post-season game since May 24, 1996, when Tom Barrasso had 56 for Pittsburgh in an Eastern Conference final loss to Florida.
But neither Ellis nor the fans could score.
Detroit, however, always seemed to find someone to put the puck in the net.
Nashville was on the power play when Lidstrom took his shot from past the red line and scored for the 1-0 lead at 13:44 of the second for a short-handed goal.
Nashville had a chance to answer. The Predators went on the power play and had 54 seconds of a 5-on-3 after a tripping penalty on Draper at 14:43. Detroit killed off the penalties.
"We did a great job on the 5-on-3," Osgood said. "We held them to two shots. We did a great job of blocking shots, probably the best job all year."
Then Hudler sealed the victory at 3:52 in the third, flipping a shot past Ellis' glove.
Nashville coach Barry Trotz called that the toughest goal, killing their hopes of another furious comeback.
"We've been absolutely magical at making something out of nothing," Trotz said.
The Predators played a second straight game without captain Jason Arnott, whose 72 points in the regular season tied for the team lead. But they got back Michigan native Legwand, who has missed the three games in Detroit to protect his bruised left foot, and forward Scott Nichol, who broke his thumb in the opening minutes of Game 1.
They took the first five shots and hit everything in red and white. One of the best hits came near the end of the first period when Shea Weber knocked down Johan Franzen.
But Osgood, who won Game 5 after replacing Dominik Hasek in the middle of a Game 4 loss here on Wednesday night, stopped all nine shots he faced in the first and had a little luck. The shot by Legwand bounced off the post and skittered cross ice away from the goal.
Just the Red Wings' luck.
Notes: Lidstrom's short-handed goal was his third in the post-season and first since Vancouver on April 27, 2002, in Game 6 of a first-round Western Conference series. Detroit won that game 6-4 and clinched the series. ... The Red Wings had been 25-20 in Game 6 all-time, but 4-3 in their past 10 series before Sunday. The Predators now are 0-2 in Game 6 with both losses to Detroit.